When it comes to dyslexia, an accurate diagnosis can be a critical first step for many students to begin receiving appropriate interventions. In his article “Why Is It So Difficult to Diagnose Dyslexia and How Can We Do It Better?” Richard K. Wagner, PhD. (Florida State University and Florida Center for Reading Research), suggests that a hybrid model for testing that accounts for multiple facets of reading development can give evaluators a more complete picture of a child and make diagnosing dyslexia more reliable than a single factor model.
With an accurate diagnosis, children can get the intervention they need. A delay in diagnosis and intervention can lead to loss of critical intervention time for students who are already behind in their reading development.
Becky Welsch’scertifications include the CEERI Tier I Qualification Exam (aligned with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading). She has completed the Associate Level Training through the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Professionals and Educators for one-on-one instruction with students using the Orton-Gillingham methodology.
Becky has a Master’s Degree in K-8 Education She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has specialist endorsements in the areas of Reading and Structured English Immersion.
Becky began teaching in the Arizona public school system in 2007. She worked in both primary and secondary grade levels as a reading intervention teacher and teacher mentor. Becky has training in Spaulding Phonics, DIBELS Next, The 95% Group, and other whole group, small group, and one-on-one intervention programs.
In 2014, she took the leap into using teletherapy to deliver one-on-one Structured Literacy tutoring. She has accumulated hundreds of hours working 1:1 with students via teletherapy.
Often, in parent-teacher
conferences or in a note sent home from school, parents learn the level that
their child is reading at. Depending on
the school you might be told that your child is “reading at level G,” or is “at
a Lexile 130,” or “is below/on/above grade level,” or is “reading at a 2.3.”
While this measure does provide some insight into where your child is
performing with reading, it is far from the most important reading indication.
In some cases, it can mask potential
reading difficulties or leave you feeling confused about what to do next.
In order to truly understand your child’s reading
performance, you need more information. However, if you aren’t a reading specialist, it can be difficult to do know what you need to know. Whether
your child is at grade level, above grade level, on grade level, reading at
level x,y,z or anything in between, you need to know how they perform at
certain reading skills. This information is critical in assessing your child’s
performance and determining a reading action plan. It is especially crucial if
they are functioning below grade level in reading.
Here are a few areas that you can ask your child’s teacher
about and some specific questions to get more information on your child’s
and sound recognition: this indicates your child’s ability to name letters
and also associate the sound of the letter with the symbol. While they are
separate skills, they are often lumped together on many assessments. By about
mid-kindergarten (if not sooner) your child should know all letter names and
all sounds, including all short vowel sounds and, depending on the state and
school, it may also include long vowels. Also, important to note some students
may have trouble with some consonant sounds (specifically sounds like <r>
can come a bit later developmentally), as long as this articulation issue does
not prevent them from reading and comprehending words with those sounds, it is
unlikely to cause a reading issue.
If this is a concern, ask your
child’s teacher: What letters does my child know the names of? What about the
sounds? What letter names is he missing? What sounds does she not know? Does he
know both long and short vowel sounds?
If the answer to these questions
indicated a gap in reading performance, Structured Literacy
intervention can help close that gap
before it becomes severe in the higher
awareness: this is an absolutely critical reading skill and a predictor of
future reading success. Most phonological skills should be mastered by
kindergarten. See our previous blog
for a more detailed list of skills, but basically,
this involves the ability to orally rhyme, identify sounds, segment and blend sounds, as well as add, delete, and
substitute sounds in order to create new
To get more information on this
subset of skills, ask your child’s teacher: Can she identify and produce
rhyming words? Can he stretch and blend sounds? Can she change sounds in the
beginning, middle, and ending of words?
This is an important foundational skill, and
reading progress becomes very difficult if it is lacking. If your child
struggles in this area beyond the middle of kindergarten, early intervention is
crucial to reading success.
Phonics: this is a very broad topic and has to
do with associating the phoneme or sound of a spelling pattern with its
grapheme or written form. Each grade level has a different set of spelling
pattern expectations, and it is important
that your child demonstrates mastery of grade-level-appropriate
Even strong readers can have
difficulty in this area. Often, students are able to memorize words and can
trick educators into thinking they have phonics patterns mastered. However, if
these are not truly internalized their reading can begin to “fall apart” as
texts get more complicated.
To determine if your child is mastering appropriate phonics
skills, ask the teacher: Can he read grade-level
appropriate spelling patterns in and out of text? Can she spell words with
appropriate spelling patterns? Can he read unknown words or nonsense words with
grade level appropriate spelling patterns?
The ability to read nonsense words
is especially important in determining if your child has mastered phonics
skills. In order to demonstrate mastery, she needs to be able to read nonsense
words using decoding abilities. If your child is able to read real words but
not nonsense words, it is an indication of weak phonics skills. It is important
to address and remediate this before it becomes a major roadblock in reading
Fluency: this refers to your child’s ability
to read with appropriate speed and expression. Your child should be reading
with a speed that enables him to understand what he is reading and expression
appropriate to what is happening. Often, poor fluency can lead to poor
comprehension and impede reading development in later grades.
To learn more about your child’s
fluency, ask the teacher: How many words per minute does she read? What is the
grade level goal for fluency? Does he read with appropriate expression? Are
there any times when poor fluency seems to affect his comprehension? Is she
trying to read too fast and failing to understand what she is reading?
The answers to these questions can
give you important insight into your child’s reading, wherever it may fall on
the grade level spectrum.
Comprehension: this is the ability to understand
what is being read and use the information to answer questions, make
inferences, draw conclusions, and make predictions. While it is included in
most assessments that determine reading level, it is such an important element
of reading development that it should be examined in more detail with your child’s
teacher. Often, even strong readers can and do struggle with higher level
To figure out how well your child
comprehends a text, ask the teacher: Can he answer questions with explicit
answers in the text? Can he answer higher level thinking questions and make
inferences? Is she able to make and confirm predictions during reading? If so,
how often can she do these things? What areas does he struggle with? What are
In addition to these five areas, there are many more areas
you can delve into. Vocabulary and writing also play an important role in
literacy development as do sight word reading ability, oral retelling, and many
other areas. It is impossible to create an exhaustive list, but hopefully the
above will give you somewhere to start and some ways to talk about reading
beyond a grade level.
Even if your child is at grade level, there may still be
areas that they struggle with. It is important to know this and ensure that
your child masters all reading skills.
If your child struggles with reading, getting effective
intervention is key to their reading success. Even if you are told to “wait and
see” by the school, keep in mind that this does not work. If your child is
young, you may be told that children develop at different stages. This is not
supported by research. Research indicates that early intervention does close
the gap. Structured Literacy programs like our online tutoring program are
research proven to increase reading skills. We work with your child and
determine the exact areas of reading to focus on which increases their success.
Contact us for more information or if you have any questions about your child’s reading abilities.
Studies have shown that children are interacting with the online world at young ages. Between social media and online gaming, we are all bombarded with increased technology. This is often viewed as a negative. However, there are ways to use technology to our advantage. From our state of the art online tutoring program to educational games, conscientious media use can be used as a tool to help our children learn.
It is a fact of the modern world, media and screens are everywhere. From iPads to cell phones to computers to video game systems, we are bombarded with digital media. We can get news and information faster than ever before. This is true for us as adults and for our children.
There is no denying it, children are accessing more media, more often, and more quickly than ever before. In fact, a new report shows that children as young as infants have access to personal media devices. The average American child spends about two hours in front of a personal screen. This is in addition to about 48 minutes spent watching TV.
While there are numerous studies about the negatives effects of screen time, this blog is not going to delve into those. The reality is that screens are a part of life. In fact, as I sit here writing this blog my son is reading a story on his iPad and my daughter is watching a video of other kids playing with toys (side note, what is it with those videos and why didn’t I think of them?).
What I am going to focus on is how we as parents can use the screen to our advantage as tools to help develop and foster learning. Not everything on the internet is education (as evidenced by the toy unboxing videos) and some of it can be dangerous. It is our job to make sure that our children interact with high-quality media that will enhance their learning as often as is possible. And of course, we have to make sure to keep them safe.
With that said, let’s look at some ways that technology use at home can help enhance critical thinking and literacy development. Keep in mind while you are reading that I am not a doctor and anything I recommend is based on my personal opinions, not expert advice.
Online tutoring The program we have developed at RW&C uses technology and media to help students with reading difficulties. We use video conferencing software to provide one on one, real-time tutoring. We also offer a multitude of practice activities hosted on our website to help you practice at home.
This is a great use of technology for parents who live in remote areas or don’t have time to commute to a reading tutor. Our program is effective and helps save time. You don’t have to spend hours stuck in traffic or juggle your daughter’s dance class with your other child’s tutoring sessions. We work around your schedule. This is one way that technology can help enhance your child’s learning.
Educational apps. There are a ton of apps that can help reinforce various skills and help your child practice. In fact, we even use a game based web program as part of our online tutoring practice. This can be a great way to get kids engaged and interacting with learning content as part of their screen time.
If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to education apps, check out this helpful list of literacy apps put together by the International Dyslexia Associate. Just remember, an app is a great way to reinforce skills, but if your child struggles with reading, you will need to make sure that these skills have been explicitly taught.
When you sign up for our online tutoring program, our reading clinicians assess your child and design their online learning games to specifically reinforce concepts that they have been working on. This can help take some of the guesswork out of it for you and make sure that the time your child spends on screen is valuable learning time.
Audiobooks. Audiobooks are a great tool for both struggling and proficient readers. It allows children to access content that is above their reading level. This helps improve their vocabulary and their listening comprehension.
If your child struggles with reading, this is something you need to take advantage of. Since many struggling readers cannot read at grade level, they are not able to access grade-level content. This leads to gaps in vocabulary knowledge. Audio books are one way to help bridge these gaps and ensure that your child has access to grade level (or above vocabulary).
There are many audiobook apps for both Apple and Android devices. Your local library may even offer access to free audio content.
Online dictionary and thesaurus references. These can help children spell words, define unknown words, come up with synonyms to enhance their writing and more. They are valuable literary resources for students.
While this is far from an exhaustive list of all the ways that technology can help enhance literary learning and reading intervention, it hopefully gives you some ideas on how to make your child’s screen time more educational.
However, keep in mind, that if your child struggles with reading and is not making adequate progress, an app or an audiobook is not going to be the magic cure. They need Structured Literacy Intervention which has been research proven to help remediate reading difficulties. One way to access that is with our online tutoring program. Contact us today if you need more information.
And now, it’s time for me to go tell my children that they need to put down their iPads and play outside. Wish me luck…
Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.